Del Duca, Kirsch, Prischak and Welch named honorary alumni

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Four longtime Penn State champions and benefactors will be recognized by the Penn State Alumni Association and named honorary alumni at a June 6 ceremony at the Nittany Lion Inn. Officially recognized for their significant contributions to Penn State's welfare, reputation and prestige were Louis F. Del Duca, professor emeritus Dickinson School of Law; Rodney P. Kirsch, senior vice president for development and alumni relations at Penn State; Joseph J. Prischak, founder of Plastek Group Inc.; and Susan Welch, dean of the College of the Liberal Arts.

The ceremony also features the presentation of the 2014 Distinguished Alumni and Philanthropist of the Year awards.

The Penn State Alumni Association has given the Honorary Alumni Award since 1973 to recognize individuals who, while not graduates of Penn State, have significantly worked toward bettering the University. Since the award was established, more than 100 individuals have been given Honorary Alumni status. Honorary Alumni receive a life membership in the Penn State Alumni Association, as well as a commemorative award. For more information about the Honorary Alumni Award and to read a full biography of each recipient, go to alumni.psu.edu/awards/individual/honorary.

This year's honorees are:

Louis F. Del Duca. Del
 Duca was inspired by the notion that one could create institutions and procedures “that might make it possible to solve problems in a manner other than to resort to destroying each other.” One night, he received a call from The Dickinson School of Law, spurred by his earlier answer on a Harvard Law School graduation form. Asked what he would like to do after graduation, Del Duca had listed several ideas, including teaching. Dickinson Dean Morris Shafer asked if he would like to teach at the Carlisle campus, and Del Duca embarked on 57 years of influencing law students and advancing the law. Del Duca — “the Duke” — served as the college’s director of admissions, associate dean of advanced legal education, associate dean for international and comparative law programs, and director of the Center for International and Comparative Law.

Rodney P. Kirsch. Kirsch arrived at Penn State in 1996 to lead the University’s development work just three months before the $1 billion Grand Destiny campaign started. Grand Destiny was a resounding success, raising $1.371 billion — more private support than the total amount Penn State had received between its 1855 founding and 1996. Now Kirsch’s office is preparing for the June 30, 2014, close of For the Future: The Campaign for Penn State Students. Launched in 2007, the campaign already has surpassed its $2 billion target, raising $2.158 billion. As senior vice president for development and alumni relations, Kirsch oversees both fundraising and the Alumni Association, the largest dues-paying organization of its kind, with more than 172,000 members. During Kirsch’s tenure at Penn State, the University’s endowment has quintupled to more than $2 billion; annual fundraising has surged from $83 million to $238 million; and the donor base has increased from 125,000 to 193,000.

Joseph J. Prischak. Prischak played a crucial role in creating Penn State Erie, The Behrend College’s plastics engineering technology (PLET) program, one of only four accredited programs in the United States. The program boasts the largest plastics lab dedicated to undergraduate studies in the country, with state-of-the-art computers, materials and processing labs. Prischak and his wife also created the Joseph and Isabelle Prischak Trustee Scholarship for Penn State Behrend students, and the need-based Prischak Family Trustee Scholarship, designated for Plastek Group employees and their children and grandchildren. Prischak has been a leader in the plastic manufacturing field for decades and a vital resource in the development and education of plastics engineering students at Penn State Behrend. Based on the success of Penn State Behrend’s plastics engineering program, Prischak started an identical program in 1991 at The University of Bratislava, Slovak Republic (formerly Czechoslovakia).

Susan Welch. Welch came to Penn State in 1991 as dean of the College of the Liberal Arts, eager to take on President Bryce Jordan’s challenge of turning a good college into a fantastic college. “I thought there was great potential here,” she said. Through the past 23 years, she has worked with University administrators, academic heads and senior faculty to implement strategic plans to create an academic powerhouse. The college has hired faculty who are national leaders, transformed undergraduate education through the Paterno Fellows program and increased philanthropic support for graduate students. Today, many core College of the Liberal Arts programs have risen to the top 10 in their fields nationally, and anthropology ranks No. 1. The George and Ann Richards Civil War Era Center and the Rock Ethics Institute both were established during Welch’s tenure and have gained national recognition.

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Last Updated June 06, 2014